A precise Justin Rose has tamed a windy Augusta National to hold a four-shot lead after the first round of the Masters, while defending champion Dustin Johnson struggled in challenging conditions.
Twice a Masters runner-up, Rose had done little to excite spectators at two over after seven holes, but went on a scorching run to card a seven-under-par 65 that marked his career low at Augusta National.
The 40-year-old Englishman finished four shots clear of Japan's Hideki Matsuyama and American Brian Harman, with former champion Patrick Reed and 2012 US Open winner Webb Simpson among a pack of four golfers a further shot off the lead.
"I felt like the conditions today were not the day to go hit them and have your personal best out there," says Rose. "It was pretty windy - well, windy enough to be tricky - and obviously the greens are incredibly firm and fast."
Rose, who withdrew from his last start a month ago with back spasms, kicked off his torrid run at the par-five eighth, where he made eagle, after his approach shot from 275 yards bounced off a greenside slope and settled nine feet from the cup.
From there, Rose was locked in and birdied all but three of his remaining 10 holes in one of the most brilliant stretches of golf ever seen at the Masters.
"You can't win the golf tournament today," says Rose, who has held the first-round Masters lead four times. "Even with a 65, you can't win it today.
“You can only probably lose it today, obviously."
This Masters has a much more familiar look back in its traditional April slot as the year's first Major, while fans were also welcomed back, although in limited numbers and with protocols in place to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
A wild finish left Johnson (74) nine shots back of the lead, as he struggled with significantly fiercer conditions compared to the toothless Augusta National layout he triumphed on five months ago in record-setting style.
Johnson was one under when he reached the par-three 16th, but made bogey after his tee shot rolled off the green and carded a double-bogey at the 18th, after his tee shot sailed right.
"Playing definitely a lot tougher just because, when the greens are firm and fast here, the golf course plays difficult," says Johnson, whose 20-under-par 268 total last year was the lowest in Masters history.
"Then you add the wind in today, it made play really difficult."